The baseball world is decidedly less fun now that the seemingly un-hurtable Trout has hit the DL, an event that leaves many fantasy owners questioning the nature of reality. But beyond the big-name stars, there’s plenty of largely unnoticed players and unlucky cheap adds that can help restore your faith in something. It goes roughly in descending order in perceived value. So here is the value issue, and as a result, this article is coming to you at the low, low price of $0.00. Wow, what a value!
Ryon Healy (3B, Oakland Athletics) – After a rough April, he was left for dead in many shallower mixed leagues, but he has healed his numbers back up in a hurry. The peripheral stats supported the assertion that he’s the real deal along, and it took a while for his surface stats to reflect it. He’s even better this year with an 37% Hard Contact rate (30% in 2016) and upped his FB% from 37% to 43%, and his plate discipline numbers have remained stable if not slightly improved. He’s the rare power hitter who can also be a plus in the batting average department, so seeing as he has the upside to go .300-30 this year, he should be owned in all batting average leagues. In OBP though he should still be owned, just not as highly valued. It’s not just Healy-um, so fly over to Healy.
Brett Gardner (OF, New York Yankees) – Brett Gardner seemed to be following a rather common career path of dwindling power and speed, but then this year happened. Who would’ve thought Gardner would have a regrowth? After hitting just 7 homers all of last year, he already has 12 homers with a .265 AVG and 5 SB with just a third of the season complete. It seems it’s not entirely a fluke either, as his 37.5% Hard% is easily a career best, as is his 37.5% FB% (though not by much). He’s also pulling the ball more at 43%, with a career low 1.9% IFFB% (career 11.1%). Still, while these are all good signs, I don’t think his 22% HR/FB is sustainable and should regress towards the 11% rate of 2014-2015, his most similar seasons to this one. See, his Barrel/BBE of 5.6% isn’t great and his exit velocity on FB/LD of 91.4 doesn’t support its legitimacy. Still, with his power/speed combo and high volume of ABs in a loaded Yankees lineups, he should be owned in all formats, and you’ll sow the seeds of victory.
Domingo Santana (OF, Milwaukee Brewers) – Domingo’s among this week’s most added players after his strong run that brings him up to 10 HR with a .269 AVG and 5 SB to boot in 210 PA, and most encouragingly, a K rate under 30%. While his chase rate of 25.7% and contact rate of 79.9% aren’t as good as his 2016 marks, they’re still pretty good for a slugger, and it seems he didn’t deserve his 2016 32% K rate. He hasn’t sacrificed his power for the contact either, as his 10.3% Barrel/BBE is plenty good, so while his 26.3% HR/FB seems high, it’s right in line with his career mark. As a player who can finally hit for passable average to go with strong OBP, 30 HR power, and 10-15 SB ability, he really should be owned in all deeper mixed leagues and most 12-teamers, especially if they use OBP. If you’re tired of singles, getting ready to Domingo.
Whit Merrifield (2B/OF, Kansas City Royals) – Him and Bonifacio (who I discussed last week) are the only two bright spots in a disaster downfall for the Royals. Whit Merrifield may sound like the guy who was captain of a prep school debate team, but he’s pummeling the ball, hitting .294 with 6 Homers and 6 Stolen Bases (1 CS) in 157 PA with a season-best 19-game hit streak. The power may seem especially surprising as he was seen as a primarily slappy hitter in his debut, but he actually had a strong hard hit rate last year that he maintained this year at 34.7%. While I’d expect the HR rate to decline as he has a long history of single-digit HR/FB compared to this year’s 13.2%, it’s a positive development that he’s upped his FB rate to 36%. While he doesn’t draw many walks, he hits for good contact and can put up the kind of production people were hoping for out of Devon Travis, but with considerably more speed and multiple position eligibility. I’d be merri to field him on any deeper mixed batting average league roster.
Andrelton Simmons (SS, Los Angeles Angels) – It’s taken several years, but perhaps Simmons has finally recaptured his rookie year power magic. His 6 taters on the young season already has eclipsed his 2016 total, and it’s also come with 7 Stolen bases and a .265 AVG. Many people may pooh-pooh the power after so many punchless seasons, but I remember that Steamer did predict nearly double-digit power preseason, and that was before Simmons started to hit for career-best hard contact at 31.2%. The amazing thing is he’s managed to hit for this kind of authority while maintaining a single-digit K-rate. It’s true that his exit velocity is not great at 87 mph overall and 90.4 mph on FB/LD, but that’s still near cromulent power hitters like Adam Jones, Kevin Pillar and Robbie Grossman, none of whom are also elite defensive shortstops. As good as his performance has been thus far, I think it should mostly hold as he’s showing a strong SB success rate with only two caught stealings to his 7 SB, and it’s sad to say but while Trout’s out, he may be the best hitter on the Angels. That’s depressing! More like Andrelton SIGH-mons, am I right? No, I’m not.
Matt Joyce (OF, Oakland Athletics) – Well if I’m going to write about players with averages under the mendoza line, I better mention Joyce, who I recommended in early April and have stubbornly maintained my faith that he’ll turn it around. He’s started to reward my patience with 2 big home runs including a grand Joyce genoa salami, but let me tell you the real reason why I like him. I largely believe he a continuation of the very good 2016 version of Joyce, as he still has a reduced but still great 34.2% Hard% (36.0% in 2016) countered by a reduced Soft of 12.8% (17.1% in 2016). He’s also hitting more flyballs at 41%, and a career-low IFFB% (career is 11.1%). His plate discipline numbers are also just as good this year as last, as he has kept his O-Swing% under 20% with similar contact rates, so that walk rate, so his already good OBP should climb higher still. And Joyce should continue to hit for significant power with a 9.4% Barrel/BBE and 93.4 mph eV on FB/LD. His BABIP has made him among the unluckiest hitters in baseball, with a .260 xBABIP compared to his .209 actual BABIP, and a player who can hit .260 with a 15% walk rate and 25 Homer Pop hitting atop the lineup is a must-own in deeper mixed formats, and even 12-teamers that use OBP. So if he’s available, Re-Joyce!
Tyler Flowers (C, Atlanta Braves) – It appears that Flowers is blossoming this year as I predicted in my preseason Bold Predictions, but while evolving into a rose of another color. He’s trimmed, or I should say sliced, his K rate from a problematic 28% to a much sweeter 18.2%, and it’s backed in career-best Chase Rate (24.6% O-Swing%) and Contact Rate (81.8%, 86.6% Z-Contact%), improvements that started last year but without it showing in the numbers until this year when the skills improved further. That said, he has an unsustainable .438 BABIP that will come down, but it’s at least less fluky in that he has a strong 34% Hard% and is hitting LD% at a whopping career-best 27.2% which have excellent batted ball outcomes. He also hasn’t hit a single infield flyball all year. I don’t think he’s a .300 hitter here on out, but he could perform like a present-day Joe Mauer behind the dish, which makes him attractive in both deeper AVG and OBP leagues considering the dearth of value at the position.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, Boston Red Sox) – Even as JBJ was weathering his early-season rut, he was still hitting the ball hard, but it’s good to finally see his numbers start to be JBOK. He actually has a better K and BB rate than his breakout 2016, with a similar 34% Hard% (36% in 2016), but the .253 BABIP has dragged his AVG. down. While his 7.8% Barrel/BBE is merely solid, his excellent 96.2 mph eV on FB/LD (right next to Bour and Cespedes) is a sign that a big power surge could on the way. I expect him to end the season eclipsing a .250 AVG. and 20 HR with a handful of SB, which is plenty valuable with his run predictions in deeper mixed leagues. He should be owned in 12-team and deeper formats and makes for a solid buy-low in trades right now.
Robbie Grossman (OF, Minnesota Twins) – He’s not quite yet a gross man this year, in that he hasn’t yet reached 144 ABs. OH SNAP! See what I did there? Well, okay, while he only has 135 AB, he has already acquired 169 PA, thanks to his fantastic 18.0% walk rate, which is the primary driver of his value. But he produces enough in the other categories to remain solid, with a .267 AVG, 6 HR and 1 SB. While he’s not good on the basepaths, the OBP skills look legit as he’s improved his chase rate to a finicky 17.4%, with the best full-season contact rate of his career at 84% (89% Z-Contact%). However, I expect his power to regress a bit as he’s hitting too many wormburners and that 17.6% HR/FB is too high for him. But considering he’s only owned in 5.3% of leagues if you need an OF bat that won’t hurt you, he’s a sneaky underrated play in AL-only and 15-teamers due to his elite 15-20% walk rate without hurting you with strikeouts.
Ryan Schimpf (2B, San Diego Padres) – Ryan Schimpf is the universe’s answer to “What if Joey Gallo was turned by an evil baseball witch into a compact second baseman? Powerful things come in small packages, as the 5’9’’ (converts to 1.03 Altuves) slugger’s recent power binge brought him up to 14 Homers and a .273 ISO in just 193 PA. Problem is, he also has a .161 AVG, which makes it easy to think he ain’t worth Schimpf. But even for a player with an extreme flyball approach as him (64.6% FB%) and a sky-high IFFB% of 22.6%, a .146 BABIP is laughably low, and according to xBABIP it should be … .186. YIKES. The good news is at least the power is legit with a strong 16.7% Barrel/BBE. I wouldn’t add him in any shallower formats or AVG formats at all really, but if it scares teams away in NL-only or 15-team OBP formats, he could be a sneaky pickup for big power on the cheap at a weaker position. Evil witch not included.
Josh Reddick (OF, Houston Astros) – I’m downvoting Josh’s most recent evolution, which is really sub-Reddick. He is putting up some of the best chase rates and Z-Contact of his career, and 6 Homers looks nice on the surface, but it looks unsustainable considering his punchless 88.3 mph on FB/LD (85.3 mph overall) and puny 3.8% Barrel/BBE. Like Grossman, he shouldn’t run, as evidenced by his poor 50% SB success rate, so he’s basically looking like a guy who will hit for .270-.280 and solid OBP but single digit homers with no speed the rest of the way, making him only worthwhile in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues. He should provide Grossman-like value, but Grossman came in with no expectations with 5.3% ownership and Reddick is owned in 28%. In 12-team formats, it’s time to take Reddick off your team’s front page.
Ian Happ (2B/OF, Chicago Cubs) – He got off to a hot start, leading me to hope he could stick in the majors, but I don’t think it’s going to Happ-en. The 34.6% K rate is bad, but it could get even worse with a league-worst (if he qualified) 20.6 SwStr%. He still does have a great Barrel rate and power, but with these K issues, he’s not looking like he’s ready yet to pull a Bellinger. For now, he’s basically Chad Pinder with less discipline and more swing-and-miss, which is not what you want to hear about a player who was recently owned in nearly 50% of fantasy leagues. Since I expect him to not get many more major league ABs, I’d only roster him in NL-only AVG leagues and 15-teamers if its OBP. In keeper/dynasty formats, I’d try to hold as his future is bright if he can trim the whiffs, but in redrafts I don’t give a crapp about Happ.
Keon Broxton (OF, Milwaukee Brewers) – You probably know already that I’m not keen on Keon. Here’s my official un-apology for bombing Brox earlier this year, as owners are finally wising up to my cautionary words as the 4th most dropped non-injured/demoted OF in the league. He still has good power, with a 9.1 Barrel/BBE and 91.4 mph Exit velocity on FB/LD (85.4 mph overall), but it pales in comparison to last year’s elite numbers, and his Hard% is down a full 10 points from an excellent 43.3% to merely good 33.3%. Then add the fact he’s been caught in a third of his SB attempts, and a Gallo-esque 65% Z-Contact, and I see a player whose sources of value are all doubtful and an average that will tank your team, as his .385 BABIP will regress hard without the elite hard contact. He’s still fine in NL-only and even 15-teamers, but there’s just too many problems here for him to be worth the trouble in all but the deepest of 12-team mixed. Come at me, Broxton bros.